Google began notifying Google Trusted Stores merchants last week that the program will soon wind down. In its place will be Google Customer Reviews. The change was first reported by Exclusive Concepts.
Google Customer Reviews
Like Google Trusted Stores, the new program is also free, but it is not a certification program. Google Customer Reviews collects reviews on behalf of advertisers from customers after they purchase and receive their orders.
Google Custmomer Reviews will be managed through Google Merchant Center. When it becomes widely available, according to an update to the help center, merchants who aren’t in Google Trusted Stores already will find it listed as an option in Merchant Center programs from the three-dot navigation icon in the upper right corner of Merchant Center.
Google Trusted Stores merchants will have their accounts migrated automatically and see Customer Reviews listed in the left-hand navigation in their Merchant Center accounts.
If approved, new merchants will need to add the survey opt-in module to their websites. When consumers opt in after making a purchase, Google contacts them to rate their purchases once they’ve received their orders. Merchants must display the opt-in to all customers in order to be compliant with the program.
Merchants can display a Google Customer Reviews website badge on their websites. The image can be customized and can show the merchants’ star rating if Seller Ratings are available.
A look back at Google Trusted Stores
Like Google Customer Ratings, Google Trusted Stores gave merchants the ability to gather reviews for Seller Ratings. The certification and ratings program launched in beta in 2011 and rolled out to all US merchants in 2012.
Qualified merchants could display the Trusted Stores badge on their sites and offer customers up to $1,000 in purchase protection backed by Google. The program integrated with AdWords in 2013. That integration has enabled Trusted Stores to show seller ratings stars in search ads, display the Google Trusted Stores logo next to the merchant name in shopping ads and reference Google Trusted Store status in review extensions.
Trusted Stores participation has always been free, though until late 2014/early 2015, merchants had to provide shipping and order cancellation data directly to Google. Those requirements made many retailers balk for both privacy reasons and reluctance to share such data with the internet giant. With the data requirements dropped, merchants still had to meet a minimum of 200 orders on average per month and acknowledge that they could meet baseline customer-support functions such as responding to inquiries within one business day.
Google has relied on Consumer Surveys to collect ratings information on retailer attributes like shipping, product selection and pricing. That data currently powers the data provided in AdWords Customer Ratings Extensions. Google also has a partnership with StellaService for customer service ratings information and sources reviews from a number of online ratings services like BazaarVoice and TrustPilot.
More details to come
Google says it will be sharing more details on Google Customer Reviews in the next few weeks.
For now, it has told Trusted Stores participants that under the new program, merchants will be able to manage their reviews in Google Merchant Center, gain new insights into their seller ratings and have more ways to customize the Google badge and opt-in form on their sites. The consumer protection offered in Google Trusted Stores does not appear to be part of this new program, but we cannot confirm that at this time. It’s also not clear if monthly order minimums will be changing for eligibility or how participation will manifest in search ads apart from Seller Ratings.
Most existing Google Trusted Stores accounts will be migrated automatically into Google Merchant Center. Program administrations will have been notified via email if steps need to be taken ahead of the migration.
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